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News & Views on the Revolutionary Left

Sleeping on the job? Blame militants

Like finicky goldsmiths, six workers use their hammers gently, perched on top of the iron skeleton of a bridge they are building just outside Kashmir's capital. It has been 18 years in the making.

Insurgencies have become an excuse for misgovernance in India. Across the country's militancy-wracked regions, functional schools, medical facilities, even police stations, just do not exist in vast, trouble-torn regions. In many areas, the state and its symbols have long become invisible. When rapes and murders take place, people go to militants for justice, not courts.

In Budgam in Kashmir, citizens got tired of waiting for the bridge and pooled money to build a foot bridge for themselves. Still, life is difficult. "In the rain, this whole area is flooded with Jhelum water. We have to wade through it. When it is not raining, there is so much dust on this mud road that our children fall sick," said shopkeeper Ghulam Nabi.

In Manipur, residents of the state capital Imphal have not had piped municipality water in their taps for decades - they buy it from tankers. Unemployment runs so deep that graduates and postgraduates run cycle rickshaws, and cover their faces with masks out of shame. Many of them turn to the underground because of its macho image - and because it has become, simply, a crucial job opportunity.

"Insurgency creates problems for governance, but that does not mean it becomes an alibi for misgovernance," said Yumnam Joykumar, the Manipur director-general of police.

But that is exactly what has happened, as Hindustan Times found out in travels across the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. "Apart from the police, people in most villages here have never seen a government official in their lives," said Jeevan Masih Topno, munda or headman of Digha village in Jharkhand's Saranda forest, the nerve centre of Naxalite activities.

Across the areas of Naxal influence in Andhra Pradesh along the Nallamala forests in the Telangana belt, deep into the border areas touching Chhattisgarh and Orissa, the squalor is spilling on to the highways. Broken roads, blown up buildings, poor people squatting on roadsides and Koya Adivasi tribe women raising blockades on the roads demanding Rs 5 from each passing vehicle is a common sight in the Khamam, Dantewada and Bargarh areas.

"Nearly 80 per cent of rural households in Bastar are without electricity, toilets and clean drinking water. In the name of fighting Naxalites, the state government is cleverly able to divert attention from its failures," said social activist Pradeep Kumar.

Governments deny the allegations. "NGOs and other activists enjoy the liberty of irresponsible statements. The fact is that the Chhattisgarh government has managed to win back Bastar from the Naxalites," said state Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam. The situation is so dismal that out of 31,900 posts of Chhattisgarh teachers sanctioned by New Delhi from 2001 to 2005, some 22,200 posts were not filled. Local officials have not been able to complete the computerisation of land records even in 17 years.

In Jharkhand, up to 76 per cent of patients left many hospitals against medical advice between 2001 and 2006, fed up of sub-standard medicines, and poor equipment and services. In many state hospitals, major surgeries like Caesarean operations and appendicitis were performed without anaesthetists, the Comptroller and Auditor-General said.

More than 1,020 schools in Jharkhand have no buildings, 3,562 schools have no drinking water facilities, 17,523 schools have no toilets, and 2,965 schools have no electricity.

Staff shortages run deep. "We are working on 50 per cent of strength at all levels," said Jharkhand Chief Secretary AK Chugh.

In several states, top officials privately admit there is a nexus between militants and government officials. Now some citizens are gathering courage to speak out as well.

"Recently we closed down the non-functioning PWD office in protest, but the underground forcibly reopened it. There must be some collaboration," said Tuithing Zingkhai, 27, president of the Young Raphei Conference in the Ukhrul district, a Naga rebel hub bordering Myanmar.

"If the officials related with development were doing their jobs, our jobs would be easier," said Jharkhand police officer Shailendra Prasad Burnwal.

Hindustan Times


posted by Resistance 7/03/2007 12:07:00 PM,


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